I have seen two things consistently in this state:
1. A lot of Republicans in Massachusetts are using out-of-date technologies for their online activities.
2. It seems that virtually all of the best technology people in the greater Boston area (which is where most of the tech people are) are politically liberal even if they don’t identify as democrats.
As technology is now a critical part of elections, party management, and governing – this is an unacceptable situation. I am going to talk about these problems in a bit more detail below, and some potential solutions.
Whether it’s websites, databases, social media functionality, or content management, the stuff I have seen and heard about at the local and state level is very much behind the times. I don’t know the reason for this. There are so many very cheap online tools and open source options that everyone can use. Take this site – it’s built on a long-dead platform with obsolete technologies under the hood. (I understand that this site was cloned from Blue Mass Group. By the way – I have heard that BMG is about to roll out a new site. Rob, we met once and if you ever want to have a beer and talk tech, let me know.)
As a full-time computer programmer who is very active in the local scene, I know a great deal of people. I always feel alone at technology events as a Republican. There are some Republicans doing IT stuff, but they tend to be doing the big enterprise stuff that is not what would be most useful to people in politics. Left-leaning folks are doing the most interesting stuff.
This lack of Republican web talent matters because the people that assist campaigns or state party operations are not going to bring the right expertise. Therefore, you get things like Scott Brown’s website, which was terrible. Other campaigns used the same technology he did (like the Bielat campaign) and I really think it held them back. And don’t get me started about the ineffective use of Facebook I have seen all over the place.
What can we do?
1. The state party should make technology a priority. There should be a Facebook group just for this topic where some discussion can happen. There should be some public pages that list best practices and excellent technology choices that party officials and campaigns can use. There is no need to keep this stuff secret.
2. There needs to be an outreach effort to find the small number of Republicans in Massachusetts who are highly-skilled at web technologies and open source architecture. We need their help.
3. The MassGOP should create a hub for Republican organizations and campaigns to post their architecture and application needs. This would be an exchange, where freelancers could find project work to do. The state party would agree to fund some of the projects, if they were broadly applicable, and as long as the final product was made available for anyone to use. (This would not be a lot of money. Most projects should be less than $10K.)
Overall, I would hate to see the huge advantage the democrats have in technology nationally continue to be the case here in Massachusetts. We need to make excellent use of technology if we are to be effective.